Never imagined I’d be writing this article in early May. The Clippers were expected to be playing the Warriors now, instead it’s the Blazers that are preparing for Game 3 on Saturday night. This wasn’t supposed to turn out this way. The whole point of bringing Rivers aboard was so that he could mold the perfect team for him to coach, while taking the Clippers to places they have never been to.
Three years into the Rivers regime, and it seems as if the Clippers have regressed. Granted, they most likely would be playing now if not for the injuries to Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. Reality is that even if the injuries to Paul and Griffin never happened, the chances of the Clippers making it to the Finals were slim.
Rivers’ failure lies in the fact that he didn’t put together a team that was capable of withholding injuries to its star players. Sure, on paper the Clippers have a nice roster. J.J. Redick is a solid starter that shot 47.5% from three on the year, and at 31 he might be the only long-term keeper on the team. Jamal Crawford is about 139 years old. He keeps winning Sixth Man of the Year Awards, but it’s probably a big hint from the NBA for him to call it quits, they just don’t know how to sweeten the offer for him. It’s time the Clips move on from him. That’s as far as key contributors go.
The mistaken players acquired this season contributed to the early demise. If Crawford is 139 years old, then Paul Pierce is about 239 years old. He’s done. Made no significant contribution all season. Josh Smith and Lance Stephenson were big summer free agent signings that didn’t even make it on the team past the trade deadline. The Clippers surrendered a first round pick for Jeff Green at the trade deadline, yet Green made little difference or impact. That brings me to the three musketeers–
Griffin, Paul, and DeAndre Jordan are players that any team would pine for. The Clippers have all three of them. So what’s the issue? THEY CAN’T PLAY TOGETHER. Jordan and Griffin clog the lanes and the floor spacing is severely diminished. There is no coincidence that Jordan enjoyed his best offensive production of his career during Griffin’s absence. His scoring went up from 11.2 to 16.7 points per game. This team has a huge need for a slasher that can get his own shot.
There is such a thing as a bad mix of All-Star talent on one team and the Clippers are a clear example of it. The biggest obstacle Rivers might have to overcome is getting some youth onto the team. With a huge void of draft picks available and no cap room, Rivers’ only option will be to break up the big three. One of them has to finally go. Griffin has the most value, he will net the biggest return, but he’s also the youngest of the bunch and has the most potential.
Rivers will have a tough task to makeover this team. It seems like that’s turning into a broken record every season. How to make over the Clips? Luckily I’m not tasked with that problem, but that’s why Rivers gets paid the big bucks to be the Coach/GM. It’s time he puts a team together that he can actually coach up. If the Clippers don’t get it right this offseason, failure might be the lasting image of Rivers that Clippers fans will have. A beacon of hope three years ago could become the symbol of disappointment. The clock is ticking, so what’s up Doc?